School of Physical Sciences

Physics - MSc, MPhil, PhD



Research degrees may be undertaken in the three main areas of research interest in the Laboratory. The growing number of academic staff are supported in their research by the technical staff and post-doctoral research fellows.

We make every attempt to allocate you to a supervisor directly in your field of interest, consistent with available funding and staff loading. When you apply, please give specific indications of your research interest including, where appropriate, the member(s) of staff you wish to work with and whether you are applying for a studentship or propose to be self-funded.

About The School of Physical Sciences

The School offers postgraduate students the opportunity to participate in ground-breaking science in the realms of physics, chemistry, forensics and astronomy. With strong international reputations, our staff provide plausible ideas, well-designed projects, research training and enthusiasm within a stimulating environment. Recent investment in modern laboratory equipment and computational facilities accelerates the research.

Our principal research covers a wide variety of topics, theoretical, experimental and applied you can see a list of example topics on our available research projects page. We also offer taught programmes in Forensic Science, studied over one year full-time, and a two-year European-style Master's in Physics (one year taught, one year research).

Think Kent video series

Dr Stephen Lowry, Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Kent, and a member of the science team for the OSIRIS optical camera instrument on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, examines what the mission has revealed about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the formation of the solar system.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Physical Sciences was ranked 7th in the UK for research impact and a demonstration of its importance to industry and the public sector.

An impressive 100% of our physics research was judged to be of international quality, with 75% of this judged world-leading or internationally excellent. The School's environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.


Study support

Postgraduate resources

The University has good facilities for modern research in physical sciences. These include: NMR spectrometers; powder X-ray diffractometers; X-ray fluorescence; atomic absorption in flame and graphite furnace mode; gel-permeation, gas, analytical and preparative high-performance liquid chromatography; mass spectrometry; scanning electron microscopy and EDX. We also have various microscopes, differential scanning calorimetry and thermal gravimetric analysis, dionex analysis of anions and automated CHN analysis. For planetary science impact studies, there is a two-stage light gas gun.

Interdisciplinary approach

Much of the School's work is interdisciplinary and we have successful collaborative projects with members of the Schools of Biosciences, Computing and Engineering and Digital Arts at Kent, as well as an extensive network of international collaborations.

National and international links

The School is a leading partner in the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), and benefits from £2.5 million of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The School has collaborations with universities around the world, particularly in Germany, France, Italy and the USA. UK links include King's College, London and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Our industrial partners include BAE Systems, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Ophthalmic Technology Inc, Canada. We also have collaborations with NASA, European Southern Observatory (ESO) and European Space Agency (ESA) scientists.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Nature; Science; Astrophysical Journal; Journal of Polymer Science; Journal of Materials Chemistry; and Applied Optics.

Researcher Development Programme

Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.


All programmes in the School of Physical Sciences equip you with the tools you need to conduct research, solve problems, communicate effectively and transfer skills to the workplace, which means our graduates are always in high demand. Our links with industry not only provide you with the opportunity to gain work experience during your degree, but also equip you with the general and specialist skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace.

Typical employment destinations for graduates from the physics programmes include power companies, aerospace, defence, optoelectronics and medical industries. Typical employment destinations for graduates from our forensic science and chemistry programmes include government agencies, consultancies, emergency services, laboratories, research or academia.

Entry requirements

A first or second class honours degree in Physics or Chemistry. We will also consider applicants with degrees in computer science, electronics, biochemistry or other closely related disciplines.

General entry requirements

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

Meet our staff in your country

For more advise about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

English language entry requirements

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Applied Optics Group (AOG)

The Group's research focuses on optical sources, optical configurations and signal processing methods for optical measurements and imaging. The Group developed the first en-face OCT image of the eye and now works with national and international institutions to extend OCT capabilities. They also conduct research on coherence gated wavefront sensors and multiple path interferometry, as well as Fast Fourier transformations on graphics cards, supercontinuum sources and fast tunable lasers.

Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science (CAPS)

The group's research spans observation, experimentation, simulation and modelling. The major topics are star formation, planetary science and early solar system bodies, galactic astronomy and astrobiology. The group uses data from the largest telescopes in the world and in space, such as ESO's Very Large Telescope, the New Technology Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory. They also use our in-house facilities, including a two-stage light gas gun for impact studies.

Forensic Imaging Group (FIG)

The Group's research has an applied focus. They explore mathematical and computational techniques and employ a wide variety of image processing and analysis methods for applications in many areas, including forensics and cyber security. The Group holds major grant funding from EPSRC. It has spawned a very successful spin-out company, Visionmetric Ltd, and was central to the School's excellent REF 2014 rating for impact; placing the School equal 7th nationally in this category.

Functional Materials Group (FMG)

Research in the multi-disciplinary FMG encompasses the synthesis, characterisation, theory and computer modelling of cutting-edge materials. Researcher are interested in finding new optical, mechanical, electronic, magnetic or biological properties that challenge present understanding or can give rise to new innovative technologies. The Group is unique nationwide in that it integrates both physicists and chemists, and its research benefits from this exchange of ideas and expertise.

Staff research interests

Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Professor Mark Burchell: Professor of Space Science

Hypervelocity impacts, the very violent events typical of solar system impacts, including: impact cratering in ices, intact capture in aerogel, impact disruption of target bodies, oblique incidence impacts, astrobiology (survival of microbial life in impact events); solar system dust using impact ionisation techniques. 


Dr Sam Carr: Lecturer in Physics

Theoretical condensed matter physics, in particular field theory and non-perturbative techniques applied to strongly correlated quantum many-body systems.


Dr George Dobre: Lecturer in Applied Optics

Optical coherence tomography; optical design; interferometric sensors; fibre optic sensors.


Dr Dirk Froebrich: Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Earliest stages of star and star cluster formation; structure and properties of molecular clouds; structure analysis of star clusters.


Dr Stuart Gibson: Lecturer in Forensic Science

Digital image processing with forensic applications; computer vision; interactive evolutionary computation (IEC) and cognitive psychology relating to human facial appearance.


Dr S.C. Lowry: Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Comets, asteroids, solar system, spacecraft and remote observation.


Dr Jingqi Miao: Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Astrophysics

SPH numerical simulation of collapsing molecular clouds; effect of the UV radiation on the Bright Rim clouds; DSMC modelling of the space particles impacts on spacecraft; structures and formation of proplyds.


Dr Gavin Mountjoy: Reader in Condensed Matter Physics

Multi-technique characterisation of oxide glasses (including ‘sol gels’); vibrational spectroscopy of silicate glasses; use of X-ray absorption spectroscopy to characterise nanocrystalline transition metal alloys and oxides, including nanocomposite materials.


Professor Adrian Podoleanu: Professor of Biomedical Optics

Atomic-scale structure of novel amorphous (noncrystalline) materials of contemporary interest such as nonlinear optical glasses and ‘sol gel’ glasses, which may be catalytically or biologically active.


Dr M.C. Price: Senior Lecturer in Space Science

Experimentally based and computer modelling of hypervelocity impacts relevant to the evolution of solar system bodies.


Dr Emma Pugh: Lecturer in Physics

Experimental condensed matter physics; magnetism, unconventional superconductivity, quantum condensed states; use of low temperature, high pressure and high magnetic field sample environments; use of central facilities including X-ray and neutron scattering centres.


Dr J. Quintanilla-Tizon: Lecturer/SEPnet Fellow in Condensed Matter Theory

Quantum condensed matter and materials physics; spontaneous Fermi surface deformations in strongly correlated quantum matter; unconventional pairing in superconductors; complementarity between cold atom and condensed matter experiments; proximity effect in magnetic nanostructures; design of new quantum informationbased neutron scattering and cold atoms probes of strongly correlated quantum matter, and novel topological excitations in frustrated magnets.


Dr Silvia Ramos: Lecturer in Materials Science

Strongly correlated quantum matter; atomic and electronic structure; characterisation of materials using microscopic probes available at large facilities such as X-rays, neutrons and muons. Interest in materials with competing electronic order (such as superconductors or magnets) and emergent electronic order at interfaces.


Professor Michael Smith: Professor of Astronomy

Star formation; molecular clouds; evolution of galaxies; astrophysical simulation; simulation; shock waves; planetary nebulae.


Dr Christopher Solomon: Reader in Physics

Image processing and reconstruction; facial modelling, encoding and synthesis; facial composites, forensic image analysis.


Professor Paul Strange: Professor of Physics

First principles calculation of the properties of condensed matter; the electronic and magnetic properties of rare earth materials, superconductors, carbon and other nanotubes; superatom materials.


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Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 827272

Subject enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 823759

F: +44 (0)1227 827558 


School website

Open days

We hold regular Open Events at our Canterbury and Medway campuses. You will be able to talk to specialist academics and admissions staff, find out about our competitive fees, discuss funding opportunities and tour the campuses.

You can also discuss the programmes we run at our specialist centres in Brussels, Athens, Rome and Paris at the Canterbury Open Events. If you can't attend but would like to find out more you can come for an informal visit, contact our information team or find out more on our website.  

Please check which of our locations offers the courses you are interested in before choosing which event to attend.


The University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in its publicity materials is fair and accurate and to provide educational services as described. However, the courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Full details of our terms and conditions can be found at:

*Where fees are regulated (such as by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills or Research Council UK) they will be increased up to the allowable level.


School of Physical Sciences, Ingram Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NH

Enquiries: contact us

Last Updated: 25/04/2016